ALBANY - A state appeals court has ruled that volunteers who worked at Ground Zero independent from any group or agency are also entitled to health benefits from the World Trade Center Volunteer Fund.

Jaime Hazan, 43, says the state Workers Compensation Board had denied him benefits multiple times because as a former EMT, he was not affiliated with any agency or volunteer group at the time.

Hazan, of Jersey City, now suffers from lung disease and other health problems. He says he also fought to get money from the World Trade Center Volunteer Fund for more than five years but was also told he was not eligible. The court ruled Friday that he is, in fact, eligible, even though he was not with an "authorized rescue entity or volunteer agency."

Sept. 11 first responder advocate John Feal, of the Feal Good Foundation, says Hazan's case paves the way for other volunteers who got sick at Ground Zero.

The World Trade Center Volunteer Fund was started back in 2003 under Gov. George Pataki's administration to only give money to people in organized volunteer agencies. Gov. Cuomo's administration says it will review the decision.